Commission okays 1-cent tax increase

By Staff
Jason Cannon, Franklin County Times
The Franklin County Commission voted Monday morning to support sending legislation to Montgomery, asking lawmakers to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase in Franklin County for economic development.
Commissioner Rayburn Massey asked that a 10-year "sunset clause" be added to the bill, which in effect would mean that should the bill pass, the commission could repeal, reinstitute or amend the 1-cent tax 10 years after it takes effect.
Commissioner Gene Graham cast the lone vote against asking for the increase, citing the already unmeet needs of the county's volunteer firefighters.
"I don't feel like I can support this increase without the volunteer firefighters getting at least a dab of it," he said.
Also, Russell-ville School Super-intendent Dr. Wayne Ray asked that the school system be given consideration, as the school's expansion rate hasn't matched the amount of funds coming into the system.
"If this goes through, then the chance of ever getting more for education is about nil," Ray said. "It would be devastating to education."
Ray added that based on growth in terms of tax dollars over recent years, there would be enough available funds in the new tax to help the school systems and economic development.
"Educating our kids is economic development," Franklin County schools Superintendent Bill Moss echoed.
Mitch Mays, executive director of the Franklin County Development Authority, made the initial request for the tax to the commission and asked that all funds from the tax be allocated for economic development.
He said anything less than 100-percent of the 1-cent increase would hinder the Economic Development Authority from being able to fund local projects in a manner that would maximize their success.
"It just might not be enough," he said.
Mays said the Vina Industrial park would take at least $2 million to upgrade the facility and install sewage. Properly developing the new Franklin County Industrial Park will take an additional $1 million he estimated and a proposed industrial park in Phil Campbell will need funding to have a road, sewage and water service made available to the facility.
"We've got a lot of opportunities right now," Mays said, "and it's going to take every bit of that 1-cent tax to get these projects moving."
Aside from pouring the funds into existing projects, Mays said the availability of the funds is crucial in landing grants that could offset some of the costs in attracting business.
"There are a lot of grants out there, but most of them are matching funds," he said. "If we get an 80/20 grant, we'll still have to come up with 20-percent of the grant or we won't qualify."
The bill is now in the hands of Sen. Roger Bedford and Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, who will have to polish the final product before submitting it to the legislature.
Vina has already voted on the matter, asking that all funds go toward economic development.
Bedford said the outcome of Phil Campbell, Russellville, Red Bay council meetings, along with both Boards of Education, could play a role in what is finally taken to the Capitol.
"We are in the listening stages," Bedford said. "We'll have to see what the other municipalities and boards want to do; if they support it as-is or if they don't."
Even though the commission passed the resolution with the funds appropriated for economic development, Bedford said the final product could still be molded to include education, fire departments or both.
"It's still open," he said. "It's just going to depend on what the people think and what they say."

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